Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Things I haven't blogged about recently: Movies

Or, Of Reptiles, Rockets and a reduced Rudd...

I've seen a few films over the Summer which I haven't reviewed and which are all a bit old news now, frankly. So, I thought I'd just jot down ( blog down? post down? ) some quick thoughts about them before my ageing brain forgets them completely, starting with:
The latest stage in Marvel Studios' ongoing campaign for global cinematic conquest, starring him out of those sweary comedy films, him out of those pervy '80s films and her out of those Hobbit films. Well, Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lillly to be precise. Ant-Man, while probably just a shadow of the movie it could have been had wunderkind Edgar Wright stayed with the project, is still lots of fun. There's a knowing admission that actually the concept of the teeny hero is pretty laughable, but not so much that the film tips over into parody. The action scenes are inventive and often hilarious, while there are many references to previous micro-world films such as The Incredible Shrinking Man. Paul Rudd always comes across as charming and likeable so the role of repentant-burglar-turned-superhero is perfect for his talents. The other leads are all fine although Corey Stoll's evil businessman is a stereotyped villain we've seen far too many times. So, not a classic by any means but a worthy addition to the MCU and one which will lead nicely into Captain America: Civil War next year.

Jurassic World
You'd be forgiven for thinking that we'd travelled back to the 1980s this Summer, what with reboots of Mad Max, The Terminator and the above dino-saga all crashing back onto the screens in a bombastic, need-for-speed, sunglasses 'n' big hair kind of way. Well, 2015 is the year that Marty McFly went back to the future...
The latest version of Michael Crichton's high concept ( Dinosaur theme park with real dinosaurs! ) is true to the spirit of the '80s, in that it's very flashy and superficial with very little under the surface  -  apart from the occasional mosasaurus. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard run about the jungle, snarling at each other without a single memorable line of dialogue, while trying to save themselves and a couple of bratty kids from giant lizards. This is fitfully entertaining but really nothing we haven't seen before. Oh, apart from something called Indominus Rex  -  a giant, hybrid dinosaur with almost-human intelligence and stealth capabilities. Really. On the plus side, there is a nice tribute to the late Richard Attenborough and it's good to see the T-Rex regaining its mantle as the ultimate dinosaur in the film's closing moments.
Tomorrowland: A World Beyond 
 Director Brad Bird's wonderfully old-fashioned, retro Science Fiction spectacular may have been one of the biggest box office disappointments of recent years but it has more ideas and invention in its first 20 minutes than Jurassic World has in its entire running time. Star-to-be Britt Robertson plays Casey, an idealistic teen who can't accept that humanity has turned its back on space exploration, and who hooks up with curmudgeon-with-a-secret-past George Clooney when she discovers a key to another world. Tomorrowland has some stunning visuals  -  obviously inspired by the brightly optimistic covers of Golden Age pulp Science Fiction magazines, along with head-spinning action scenes, and a refreshingly upbeat attitude after all the recent silver screen dystopias. Clooney is his usual charismatic self, switching effortlessly between grumpy and charming at the drop of a space helmet, while Robertson is sparky and vivacious, easily a match for her big league co-star. And our own Hugh Laurie turns up as a smooth-talking villain too! It's a real shame that this film wasn't a success as I think it's one of the best original Science Fiction films of recent years. I'll definitely be buying the Blu-Ray when it comes out to again step into this shiny, big-hearted other world...
In complete contrast to all the above megabudget fare I also saw this heartbreaking documentary about the sadly-missed Amy Winehouse. Told exclusively through TV clips and found footage, with voiceovers from friends and colleagues, the film traces Amy's rise and tragic fall  -  from the talented teen, messing about with her mates, through the years of slogging around jazz clubs, to the megastardom and the problems that brought. Although her father ( who comes out of this in a very bad light ) has publicly attacked this documentary for misrepresenting Amy's life, it does present a clear picture of a prodigiously talented singer who is constantly led astray by hangers-on and ripped apart by depression and substance abuse. Not an easy watch by any means  -  the fantastic music, rare footage and lovely scenes of the young, aspiring Amy make it worthwhile, but I came out of the cinema feeling shell-shocked...

Soundtrack: Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
                    "Remember when you were young? / You shone like the sun..."


Tom Wiggins said...

Great round up, Simon! I'm almost completely out of the loop when it comes to films at the moment. I must admit, Tomorrowland has slipped under my radar. The premise and proximity of its release made me think it was a bit Interstellar-y, which put me off a bit, but I'm sure it's an entirely different beast. I will certainly keep an eye out for it. As for Amy, I was just as shell-shocked. It was a hard watch, but served as a welcome antidote to the tabloid papers' caricature of Amy as it slipped deftly behind all those headlines. I'm not sure any great revelations were made, but due to limitations on material as a result of her tragic death, it's the most intimate portrait of Amy the Person we're likely to see. And it proved an unlikely hit among the British cinema-goers - so much so that at the end of August Chloe at the Guildhall ran it again.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

I will watch Tomorrowland just one your recommendation. I needed some distance from the bad reviews to give this one a fair chance. I hope it will be just what I need to see right now.

cerebus660 said...

Amy was a hard watch indeed, but worth it. I'm glad we saw it.

I think you'll appreciate Tomorrowland's shiny, retro vibe. Tell me what you think :-)


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